By far the biggest questions I ever get from readers are about college, whether they are about to start their freshman year (lucky!) or are headed towards the finish line of senior year. Being the youngest sibling in my family, you would think I would have had a lot of people to ask about college, but in reality I was the only girl with a huge age gap from my older brothers, so there were a lot of things that I had absolutely no one to ask. I would have given anything to chat with a girl near my age who understood and could answer honestly!
With that being said, I've compiled a list of all of the questions I receive from my readers about college, freshman year, Greek Life, debunking myths, what to wear...you name it, I've answered it! More importantly, I wanted to answer the tough questions, or the ones that sometimes girls might feel to awkward or shy to ask someone, even if they do have a big sister or friend they could reach out to. My goal was to be as honest as possible, and leave no topics off-limits!
If you still have questions you don't see on this list, please don't hesitate to email me! (You can find all of my contact information on the right side of this page, or right here!) This is definitely a longer post, so I've also sorted questions by category, so if there is one section in particular that doesn't apply to you, you can skip right over it...or, you can more easily find the sections you do want to read! Everything included are real questions I've received from readers, so I really hope that they are helpful, but of course every campus is different!
General Questions - Classes, Books, & What (Not) to Bring:
1. What's the best place to get affordable textbooks, either to rent or buy?
Your campus book-store is always a fine place to search, but I ended up saving hundreds upon hundreds of dollars by renting as many textbooks as possible, and often Amazon Textbook Rental was by far the best place to search!
2. I want to get to know my professors, but I feel like just showing up to office hours and introducing myself is awkward. Do you have any suggestions on how get to know them better?
It can definitely be intimidating to show up to a professor's office hours...but it is also something that every upperclassman says they wish they had done sooner in their college career. If you don't feel comfortable wandering in for the sole reason of saying hello, just wait until the first homework assignment or project, and bring a couple of questions as an ice-breaker! They host office hours for a reason, and there were multiple times in college that my grade was swayed or improved because a professor had seen how much work I'd put in by coming for extra help! (*cough* statistics *cough*).
3. Do I need to bring some nice & formal dresses to school, or is that impractical?
This depends on your definition of "formal"...I can't think of any situation or reason why you would need a gown or prom dress at college - leave those at home!! However, occasionally you may be invited to a date party or formal with a Fraternity or other organization, and having 1-2 of these nicer dresses on hand can be useful. Or you can hold off and wait for one of those events to arise, and use it as an excuse to go shopping/search online so you know it's event appropriate!
4. Do I need one set of sheets, or two?
Definitely two! One could be dirty, in the laundry, etc. No matter the reason, two is absolutely a good idea.
5. I've heard that you should bring a weekender bag in case you go on a weekend trip somewhere with friends. Do I really need this, and for what?!
Absolutely bring a weekend-size travel bag (you can shop a few of my favorites here, here, and here...and a few more below!) College is filled with spontaneous weekend trips, whether it's to go home for a weekend if you live nearby, to a friend's nearby lake house or family home, a fraternity formal or sorority weekend getaway/retreat...you never know what may pop up, and I used mine constantly throughout school. *Bonus - you can fill the bag as extra storage when you aren't using it!*
8. What clothes do you really need, and what are the items that you think you need, but should be left at home?
As a notorious over-packer, this is a tougher question for me. I've listed out my favorite "preppy" essentials for college here, but these are definitely not "must-haves". It all depends on the weather and region your school is located in, but my advice is that it's typically best to bring a few of your lighter fall items when you head to school in the fall, and leave your winter stuff to be sent up later by your parents when you start to need them. Leave the formal dresses, costumes, and expensive or sentimental jewelry at home.
9. Everyone says "don't bring t-shirts" because you'll receive so many the first few weeks of school. If my school doesn't rush first semester, will I really get that many t-shirts?
Truthfully, probably not. If you are planning on joining Greek Life, it is true that you are due for an excessive amount of shirts showing off your new letters. If you're at a school like Miami or Indiana University, you won't receive these until you go through recruitment in the spring, so with the exception of any "school spirit" t-shirts you purchase yourself, you won't get very many given to you. I would say it's nice to have a few favorites for when you're lounging around your dorm room!
Greek Life - Sorority & Fraternity Myths, What to Wear to Parties, and How to Dress Up for Themes:
1. I know that some Greek Life parties are themed, and have been told that I should bring "costume-type outfits" for those. Do I really need to bring that, and how often do these parties really happen?
Themed parties are so much fun, and (depending on the school) I would say they are fairly common, but certainly not every single party. Usually themed parties are during official, planned socials between 2 or 4 Greek Chapters, and they can be literally anything. No amount of preparation or pre-packing could possibly get you ready for these parties, so definitely leave the costumes at home. You will have a blast heading to your local Thrift Shop or Walmart to craft up an outfit once you know what the theme is, and extra costumes will just take up valuable storage space. Some of my favorite Pinterest boards for theme-party outfit ideas are here, here, here, here, and here!
2. Where can I find some cute and affordable shoes to wear out to Fraternities, bars and parties without fear of ruining them?!
This was the never-ending question in college, and I certainly buried a few pairs of favorite shoes lost to the party-world...sad days, indeed. You definitely don't want to invest in expensive shoes that you would worry about ruining, (or if you do, be cautious about when you take them out!). My favorite places for affordable and cute shoes are definitely Target (they have amazing wedges that I replace year after year...these are my favorites), H&M, occasionally Nordstrom Rack, and Tobi.
3. I've heard rumors that Fraternities will turn girls away from parties if they aren't "pretty enough" or aren't in a "good enough" sorority...is this true, and is it something I should worry about?
This is a loaded question, and one with a lot of myth, so I'm going to answer it in two parts...I won't pretend either that most myths aren't born from some level of truth. I never once experience or heard of this happening to anyone in my years of college. As far as I have ever known, fraternities don't typically "turn away girls". If there is an "open party" at a fraternity house, the general consensus is 'the more the merrier' when it comes to women hoping to attend. You have every right to be there as anyone else!
As far as being turned away based on what sorority you are in...this is again something I never experienced, because with open parties, again, fraternities tend to be fairly inclusive. The only time I could think of someone not being welcome to a party is if it is an official "social" or "pair" between that fraternity and another sorority...those are financed with chapter funds, and are for members of those organizations only. I will admit, however, that there are definitely times where certain chapters tend to hang out with other chapters more often than others...but this varies greatly at every school, and doesn't necessarily have anything to do with "social rank". Be proud of whatever organization you choose to take part in, and never let something like a party make you doubt yourself, your chapter, or your self-worth!
4. My college doesn't have Greek Life Recruitment until second semester. What is the best way to make new friends in the meantime?
This was a huge fear for me as I started freshman year, particularly because I was in the honors dorm and worried that I wouldn't be able to relate to people in my dorm. There are hundreds of ways to make friends in college, and all the way through my senior year I continued to befriend people who had nothing to do with my Greek affiliation or even Greek Life at all. Classes are a great way to start - something as simple as commiserating with the person next to you during a particularly boring lecture, or putting yourself out there by joining a fall Intramural league or low time-commitment club.
My biggest regret is not reaching out more to girls in my dorm. I was friends with my roommate, and entered college with a sophomore boyfriend, so it was all too easy for me to ignore and avoid a lot of my dorm-mates, and I missed out on countless friendships. You will run into these girls in the bathroom, in the common rooms, and just walking to class. Don't be afraid to ask "what building are you walking to" or something as simple as "where are you from?" No one else has friends yet, either!
5. I'm worried about balancing my classes, Greek Life, and a social calendar...how do I manage everything at once, and what if I can't make it to certain chapter events or parties?
Your sorority is there to work with you as a student, not against you. It shouldn't be something that is interfering with your grades, studies, or stressing you out. Balance and time management is definitely key, but if you find that you are struggling, you shouldn't be afraid to sit out on a party or social event to catch up on homework or get some much-needed zzz's. Utilizing the older girls in your sorority can actually help your studies, because there is a good chance someone else has the same major as you and has some great advice or tips! Most chapters also have things like study tables where you can spend time with your sisters and hit the books...or just grab some girls and make a study date together! You're all students first, and I promise your chapter wants you to do well in your classes, too!
6. I'm really worried that I won't get into a sorority, or won't get into one that I wanted. What do I do if that happens??
Everyone feels this way about recruitment, and it's a perfectly normal fear to have...every school is different in terms of your likelihood to get a bid (some southern schools have massive recruitments and there simply aren't enough spots, whereas schools like Miami until very recently guaranteed you a big as long as you followed the rules of scoring). There is no way to predict what will happen in recruitment, but my best advice is to be your best and true self. Sororities can tell if you are being fake or not yourself, and it won't work in your favor. As always, avoid the off-limit topics like fraternities, boys, parties/drinking, money, politics...and definitely don't talk about other chapters!
You may get one that isn't your top choice, or even your second choice...but that's okay. In truth, this happened to plenty of my friends, and it turned out that they were right where they needed to be...they just had to have an open mind to embrace it and give it a try. No one is going to force you to initiate, but you've waited this long and gone through the recruitment process, so it can't hurt to stick it out for a while and see if there's something you're missing! (Let's be honest, a handful of short and scripted conversations can only give you so much of a realistic glimpse into what a chapter is really like!) These tips are an amazing list of what to do if you aren't completely over the moon about your chapter placement, too!
5. My school doesn't have sorority houses...am I missing out on the big sorority experience of living with all of my sisters?
I had to include this one because it was one of my biggest concerns as I approached freshman year at Miami. Instead of houses, we have sorority suites on one big "sorority quad", with a designated space for each chapter. The sophomores would live in one long corridor together in the dorms, and could use the chapter room for hanging out, studying, cooking, or meetings. I was super apprehensive about this, because I had always dreamed of the big beautiful houses I saw in movies...and then reality hit me! I could not have afforded to live in a sorority house all four years! The chapter dues at my school were so much cheaper...like over $1000 cheaper...and we were still spending a ton of time together! We had less rules, less cleaning responsibility (thank you, dorm life), and we still had a space to call our own.
6. The hook-up culture on campus seems like it has been pretty out of control in recent years, according to the media. Is it really like it seems, and is that the only thing guys are interested in - or can you find guys who are interested in relationships, too?
This one is a super loaded question...and extremely difficult to answer. I can't attest to how this has changed on college campuses in recent years vs. ten or twenty years ago, but I will say I don't feel like I was surprised by the ways that relationships between guys and girls unfolded in college. I think everyone has their own approach to this, and if a relationship is what you are looking for, you can definitely find that (I did meet Dalton in college, after all!) Stick to your personal values and stay true to yourself, never do something you're uncomfortable with, and spend your time with people you trust!
7. HELP - What do I wear during recruitment?!
This definitely varies depending on your campus, and if you have recruitment in the Fall or Spring. Luckily, most recruitments have finally caught up with the times, and will have Pinterest Boards and guides with outfit suggestions. You will also have a Greek Guide who can answer all of your fashion questions and give you a good tip of what you need to wear...she is an active Sorority member too, so she knows what she's talking about! Look on the Greek Life page of your school's website and see if they have a list or description of outfits there! (Here is an example of Miami's Recruitment Pinterest Board!)
Roommate Questions - Who to Live With, How to Get Along, and What to do if You Don't Become Best Friends:
1. I decided to do a random roommate through the school...what if we don't have anything in common or get along?
This is always a big concern for people who have never met their roommate...and understandably so! The good news is, with Facebook and Instagram, you can luckily usually get a pretty good sense of what they will be like beforehand! This is also a great way to get in touch, introduce yourself, and start getting excited for the year! College is a great learning experience for how to deal with people and personalities who might be different than you are used to...and yes, there is a chance you really may not like them! My best advice here is to be as up-front and honest as possible. If you are light sleeper, let them know on day one! If one of you has an issue with certain activities such as drinking, don't be afraid to speak up or ask them about it. Knowing where each other stands is the best way to avoid conflicts down the road.
2. I have little or no experience being around alcohol or people drinking...and I'm worried that my roommate or dorm friends might be really involved in that. How should I handle it?
Everyone has their own preference, and I won't pretend drinking doesn't exist in college...if it's something you aren't personally interested in, you will still be able to find people who aren't either! There are so many other activities on campuses that don't revolve around partying or bars, and the other people who attend those events typically feel the same way that you do, so don't worry about finding people who choose not to partake!
3. How to tell the warning signs of dangerous alcohol use.
This isn't something that was specifically asked by a reader...but it's incredibly important, and you would be amazed at how many people genuinely have no idea what to do in this situation! No one wants to be the girl that gets her friend or roommate in trouble with the school or police, especially if your school has strict policies against it. I had my own experience with a friend who was in legitimate danger due to alcohol use, and we delayed getting help for almost two hours because we didn't want to get her in trouble! She ended up needing medical attention, and had a concussion on top of everything else...letting her "sleep it off" could have killed her. If a friend is unresponsive, vomiting, or are displaying scary signs such as eyes rolling back in their head, you need to get an RA or get them to the nearest doctor or hospital immediately. Yes - there is a chance they may get in trouble...but their life is more important. And fortunately, most campuses are adopting amnesty programs that are meant to keep everyone out of trouble so no one ever fears getting medical help when its needed!
4. The Do's & Don't of Sharing Clothes with your Roommate:
If you're lucky, you and your friends or roommates might be able to share clothes, shoes and accessories. This was such a fun part of college for me because I never had sisters! After two years, I definitely had learned my lesson about which friends will take care of your precious belongings, and how to take care of others' as well. Never lend out something incredibly valuable, expensive, or sentimental. No one will judge you for it, and its not worth the risk. If you borrow something, be sure to return it immediately after (no more than 24 hours!). Always double check their preference on caring for the item...some people are very particular about how something is washed or laundered, and want to do it themselves. Other people might consider it respectful of you to wash the item before returning, but always be sure to check and ask!
5. My roommate and I have completely different schedules. How do I handle getting ready while she is sleeping, or vice versa? I don't want to be inconsiderate, but I also need to get ready efficiently before class!
If you have a super early morning class, try to be courteous and do the majority of your morning routine in the bathroom, or ask your roommate to do the same if she is the early riser! Sleep is sacred in college, and doing whatever you can to eliminate any unnecessary noise or disruptions for each other is definitely the right way to approach it. However, be sure to also be understanding that this is a shared space and everyone will need to be getting ready at some point! This is where things like your own individual desk lamp and a great pair of headphones are key!
I hope this guide was helpful, and again - if there were any questions you want to hear more about or didn't have answered on this guide, please feel free to email me (contact information is on the right panel of this page) or comment below and I will promise to answer as quickly as possible!